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How faithful is the ‘Beetlejuice’ musical to the movie?

Sophia Anne Caruso plays Lydia, the troubled teenager at the center of the "Beetlejuice" musical. (Darren Cox)
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“Beetlejuice,” like all stage adaptations of beloved films, faces a fundamental question: How much should the production adhere to the original? In the end, writers Scott Brown and Anthony King decided to use the classic film as more of a loose framework for their take on the story.

Lydia takes center stage

Most notably, the musical expands the role of Lydia (Sophia Anne Caruso), a peculiar teen adjusting to life with her father and stepmom. “This musical really centers around this girl who is grieving the loss of her mother, and her father is not dealing with it,” says Alex Brightman, who plays Beetlejuice. “What happens when you don’t deal with that stuff is a monster appears.”

[You don’t have to say ‘Beetlejuice’ three times to meet the star of the Broadway-bound musical]

There’s a conniving connection

That monster also plays a more active part in the proceedings here, as a devious bond between Beetlejuice and Lydia provides the musical’s central storyline. “One of the reasons I think they’re great musical theater protagonists is they’re both hucksters,” director Alex Timbers says. “They are in cahoots, but they trick each other.”

Beetlejuice gets a makeover

The “Beetlejuice” team did numerous makeup tests for Brightman’s idiosyncratic demon, ranging from a slavish re-creation of Michael Keaton’s look in the film to an unrecognizably abstract version. Ultimately, they landed in the middle. “We’re giving everybody something they can latch on to,” Brightman says. “You look at it and you go, ‘I think that’s Beetlejuice.’ But we have our own thing.”

The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; Sun. through Nov. 18, $54-$114.